Chris Simms released his QB rankings the other day and sparked some discussion online since it has some against the grain opinions. Before you jump onto Simms, I want to give the guy some credit, he’s actually been mostly spot on with his QB rankings pre-draft for the past several years, so maybe he’s not wrong. But the list did remind me that this is the time of year when we enter panel 4 of the above comic. When we’ve had some time to let the post-season hype die out, but still far too much time before the draft, and everyone starts overthinking it, either by accident or on purpose for clickbait.

Every year I dread the moments after free agency dies because the only time of the year worse than the July wasteland is the post-free agency draft wasteland. Draft coverage is exhausting and if you aren’t a college watcher it’s even worse, because it becomes the entire dialogue at all times and you aren’t even familiar with the players being dissected. At least in July you can go outside, have a picnic, and enjoy not having to care about football. The longer I do this (going on 9 years now) the more obvious and tedious the entire draft cycle has become. So for funsies let’s break it down.

Step 1: The Drafties Emerge – Late December through late January/Early Feb
The drafties never truly go away during the season, but they are easy to tune out and mute. Once the College season ends and the bowls begin, they start to gather. There is less football, now they can fill the space with early predictions and discussions, especially once the NFL season ends and we know the lower draft order. They rise like cicadas en-masse after the BCS championship game and Senior Bowl end. They all have to put out their early lists of prospects. The early film study. Even the occasional early hot take. Outside the sudden rise of draft content, most of it is predictable. The top prospects of the season have already achieved plenty of hype and are well known, especially the top 1-2 QBs. For a current example, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. This is generally a decent time to pay attention, because you’ll learn most of the important upcoming player names, and because free agency hasn’t hit yet there is still regular, non draft reasons to pay attention.

Step 2: The Tide Turns – The Combine through late March
The combine and pro days are the turning point in draft discourse. Even though free agency will steal most of the early headlines, this is when things really ramp up and take over. The Combine introduces a lot of people to lesser known prospects, and inevitably many of them will have a good day combined with a few top prospects having a bad day, and the balance of rankings begins a dynamic shift. The most poisoned result to all of this is what I mentioned in the first paragraph. This is when the drafties have had too much time to catch up and analyze the main players, and have since gotten bored with them as they’ve already written about everything they can. Now they are noticing the lesser known prospects, and since humans are attracted to shiny new objects, they start to overvalue these secondary and lesser known prospects. That’s when you start to get lists that suddenly have the obvious first overall pick suddenly the third best in his class. Since most of the main players have already exhausted their value in the media cycle, these changes naturally lend themselves to clickbait articles and hot take rankings where the draftie will pick a few pet project prospects to overvalue and rave about, causing discourse. From my experience over the past decade, this is a timeframe you can mostly ignore. It will help you learn the names of the eventual 2nd and below round picks, but overall is just a byproduct of a stagnating media cycle needing fresh blood.

Step 3: The Wastes – Late March through Draft Day
This is the worst part of the year, arguably worse than the void of summer. Draft coverage is the only coverage you get, and the airwaves are full of increasing numbers of mock drafts and rankings lists. Articles abound of trying to pick the best prospects for each team. Bold drafties even start trying to predict trades in their mocks. Analysts release new mocks almost daily, sometimes twice a day. Clickbait continues to roll with outrageous trade concepts and pointless nothing articles grading fantasy drafts that exist to simply fill space and feed the machine. Finding an actual nugget of information or news is difficult, and everything blurs together. By the last week of April, everything sharpens up. All the hot takes and second guessing from the second step has vanished and the mock drafts now mostly list the expected players back in their original standings. One final burst of every mock draft possible from every analyst, plus articles compiling those mock drafts into a meta-mock draft.

Step 4: The Release – Draft Day through the next week or so
Draft Day hits and, as every year, nothing goes as expected outside a few obvious choices at the top. The day is filled with intense reactions and frustrations, jubilation and rushing to figure out who the fuck that guy is that your team grabbed in the 3rd that you didn’t know about. The days following the draft are nothing but post-draft reaction and grades. Who nailed the draft? Who made baffling choices? The existential articles that remind you that none of it actually matters and the drafts can’t be accurately assessed before any of the players play. Thankfully, after the week is over, the discourse has mostly ended and the long descent into the summer void has begun. The Drafties claim one last attempt at glory, telling us who to pay attention to in college the next year, but by then all of us are drafted out and those drafties can go fuck themselves, we have basketball and hockey to watch now, and then baseball for those sickos.

Free Agency hits soon, and it’ll be a fun couple of weeks. After that I think I might just tune the hell out till draft day. We are entering panel 4, and panel 6 isn’t for two months. God save us all.